On earth there are two great geniuses – Buddha and Lenin.
On this date in 1937, purged former Mongolia Prime Minister Peljidiin Genden was shot in Moscow.
Genden was in the thick of communist authority in Mongolia, including a forced collectivization that provoked resistance sufficient for Moscow to demand the Mongolians lay off the “leftist deviation.” Eyeballing a likely future conflict with Japan, Russia wanted Mongolia as a buffer zone and couldn’t afford gratuitously upsetting the apple cart.
Genden, himself a former leftist deviant, managed an adroit volte-face and got himself named Prime Minister in 1932.
Stalin’s minions would closely meddle in the business of the Mongolian People’s Republic over the 1930s as it rolled out its own eastern policy. Despite the Comintern’s recent turn towards ideological moderation in those precincts, it soon became concerned that Genden was lax in going after the Buddhist element; in fact, he’d openly declared religious toleration in 1932. But this particular enemy Russia could not abide. “The lama regime,” Stalin tut-tutted, “is stronger than the people’s regime.”
Genden had the ill-chosen moxie to push back against Stalin. On one state visit to Moscow, he got liquored up and bellowed,
Other plans for Mongolian leadership were soon put in place, the way cleared via the expedient of framing Genden as the mastermind of a fanciful pro-Japanese plot.
This [Genden] “case” led to the deaths of 639 falsely accused people, including 63 percent of the members of the [Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party] Central Committee and 80 percent of its presidium members … There is evidence that the arrest of many Mongolian leaders on false charges and their “rendition” to the USSR for execution was organized from Moscow by NKVD chief Nikolai Yezhov.
It was estimated that, from 1934 to 1939, about 171 Mongols were arrested in Mongolia but tried and sentenced in Russia. The charges were usually “counterrevolution” or “espionage for Japan.” It is known that 33 were shot near Moscow, 108 received long terms of imprisonment, 13 were released, and four died “under investigation.”
And that’s just on the political side. With Genden out of the way, anti-Buddhist purges really took off in the late 1930s, to the tune of 18,000 lamas killed.
Part of the Daily Double: Stalinism East and West.